Baltimore's Mayor Reveals Dilemma of Black Leaders

Baltimore’s Mayor Rawlings-Blake has been criticized for failing to act to swiftly quell the rioting in her city. But her reticence was not due to a lack of competence or experience.  Rather, it is symptomatic of a dilemma faced by black leaders throughout the U.S. when they rise to power. Black leaders get elected by assuring their electorate that they will stand by them and join in their battle against white oppression. Her first instinct was to sympathize with the rioters that their anger was caused by the pent-up frustration of living in poverty created by an oppressive white society. 

As the rioting was taking place the mayor is alleged to have ordered the police to stand down. One person stated that she said “let them loot it’s only property.”  Even if she did not clearly make these statements it’s obvious that the police only stood by on Tuesday evening and she did say that an aggressive police response would only aggravate the rioters and make the situation worse. Also, the mayor did not immediately request the governor to bring out the Maryland National Guard. She needed her black voters to believe it was a Republican governor, not herself, who did this.

When the governor was finally asked to call in the National Guard, Mayor Rawlings-Blake was careful to make sure the Republican governor stood next to her. This gave the appearance that the governor, not the mayor, wanted the National Guard to arrest the demonstrators. The mayor was not seen as acting alone to call in the troops. She had to keep her distance from the decision. The mayor obviously felt the need to walk a fine line: she needs to appear sympathetic to the rioters’ anger yet must act responsibly and control violence. 

This catch-22 situation reveals the dilemma black leaders face when they come to power. Black churches, the centers of black political thought, usually practice what is known as black liberation theology. This political perspective is based on the premise that America is run by a group of incurable white racists who seize upon every opportunity to suppress progress in the black community.

But when a black leader is elected mayor and becomes part of a city administration, they can’t readily order police to stop riots without appearing to be part of the white establishment oppressors. 

This is the classic problem faced by political activists. In American politics today, all prominent black leaders strive to gain black votes by sympathizing with their plight as an oppressed minority. But once they come into power they become the administrators and they do not have a political paradigm equipped to deal with their new role. They face an identity crisis: they simply cannot allow themselves to become the oppressive establishment they preached against for so long. They must always blame a third person, they cannot act in any way that would lead their voters to believe they have betrayed them. For Mayor Rawlings-Blake to call in the National Guard, and stand by that decision, would be a serious threat to her status in the community.She could no longer complain about police tactics if she orders the police to use them.

Rather than risk her political career she did the only thing she felt she could do -- provide rhetorical support for the rioters.  Then she needed a political scapegoat to take the role of the oppressive establishment politician. I would not be surprised to find that this was a conscious decision.

Black leaders have established this position because they not only must establish a third person as the person to blame but because their policies must not allow conditions in black communities to improve.

Policy changes that could make a difference would have to improve the education system and throughout the U.S. the biggest campaign contributors are the two huge national teachers’ unions. She cannot alienate some of her party’s biggest campaign contributors by removing their monopoly of the public school system. As harsh as it sounds, the public school system, as bad as it is, cannot be changed. There is simply no dramatic way to change it without threatening the existence of the Democrat Party’s control of education.

The Baltimore public school system spends more money per pupil than Loyola Academy high school in Illinois, which is the highest academically ranked high school in the state. Clearly, Baltimore doesn’t need to spend more money. What it does need to do is turn the education system over to the private sector. But this would cause the DNC to lose one of their largest sources of campaign money and support. So Baltimore’s terrible public school system is due to greed and a desire to maintain political control, not a lack of resources.

As long as black political leaders continue to support demonstrations, even violent ones, against "injustice", it will be very difficult for them to impose law and order. They can’t sympathize with angry outbursts and then stifle them. The voters will only remember the imposition of law and order, which they see as a characteristic of white establishment oppressors.

The best way for anyone to get a better paying job and move out of the ghetto is to get a good education, but Democrats are tied to their big campaign money and are loathe to make changes. In fact it is difficult to point to any big city run by Democrats that has done a good job with the education dollars they spend. All they can do is continue the terrible education system and continue to blame it on the establishment even if they are the establishment and have enough power to make real changes. 

To shut down the rioters and improve the education system the mayor must betray the two legs of her support: those who voted for her as someone who would stand up against the oppressive establishment, and those teacher union members who give her party large campaign contributions. It is not just Baltimore’s poor black communities who suffer from Democratic leadership. All large cities with poor black communities and horrible schools are run by Democrats. If Democrats greatly improved these communities and gave black residents the education needed to earn a good living they would move out and the Democrats would lose all their big urban power bases. The last thing Democrats want is for black residents to get a quality education and move out of their control.

This analysis explains why Mayor Rawlings-Blake delayed police control of the rioters and why Baltimore’s black residents do not get a quality education. Long ago Democrats realized that they must create a demand for themselves. They must portray themselves as sympathetic to the plight of poor minorities but act to ensure they always stay poor minorities.  Anyone who disagrees with this should comment here and point to a large city run by black Democratic leadership that has completely improved the school system and changed the poor black communities into prosperous ones. Historically, the opposite has occurred. Black communities continue to get worse. And under the leadership of the first black president the situation is worse than ever. 

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